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Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West



Losing Eden: An Environmental History of the American West

Sara Dant

ISBN: 978-1-118-93431-9 August 2016 Wiley-Blackwell 240 Pages

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Losing Eden traces the environmental history and development of the American West and explains how the land has shaped and been shaped by the people who live there.

  • Discusses key events and topics from the Beringia migration, Columbian Exchange, and federal territorial acquisition to post-war expansion, resource exploitation, and climate change
  • Structures the coverage around three important themes: balancing economic success and ecological protection; avoiding "the tragedy of the commons"; and achieving sustainability
  • Contains an accessible, up-to-date narrative written by an expert scholar and professor that supplements a variety of college-level survey or seminar courses on US, American West, or environmental history
  • Incorporates student-friendly features, including definitions of key terms, suggested reading sections, and over 30 illustrations

List of Figures viii

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction – The Nature of the West 1

1 Losing "Eden" 7

2 The West Transformed 24

3 Claiming and Taming the Land 44

4 The Great Barbecue 65

5 The Pivotal Decade 82

6 Conservation and Preservation 102

7 Roll On 118

8 Booming the West 135

9 Building Consensus 153

10 Environmental Backlash and the New West 172

Epilogue – Sustainability and the "Triumph of the Commons" 192

Index 206

"Taking the long view, Dant illustrates how the West and its natural resources have always been central to national debates about the relationship between innovation, extraction, economics, politics, and the environment. Her lucid prose and evidentiary approach to these discussions make this book, if not a handbook for behavior, a treatise on how to better understand it. Filled with maps, graphs, and useful illustrations, this excellent book reveals much about our evolution over time and offers new perspectives on how we got to where we are today." - Big Sky Journal

“Though barely 200 pages, and so only a scraping of the surface of the West’s evolution, Ms. Dant does much justice...[and] ends each chapter with a robust list of suggested readings through which you can further bolster your understanding of the issues in play. The author leaves us without an illuminating panacea for how we can sustainably consume the West. Rather, she urges us to talk and compromise for what’s best for this landscape we love." - National Parks Traveler

“Dant’s work is synthetic, drawing from a range of disciplines including anthropology, ecology, geography, and history…One of the book’s major strengths is its contextualization of the West into broader national trends. Rather than depicting the West as a place apart, Dant clearly explains its complicated relationships with the nation as a whole, all while highlighting how the region’s natural environment uniquely influenced the ways those interactions played out.” - American Association of Geographers Review of Books

"Dant’s narrative levity and interpretive rigor is perfectly balanced for an undergraduate audience who will likely find much of the material interesting, novel, and engaging.” - Western Historical Quarterly

Losing Eden has a narrative style and a wide-ranging scope that make it accessible to the general reader...[and] it offers the most concise and straightforward overview of western environmental history available.” - Montana: The Magazine of Western History

“Dant is well versed in contemporary western historiography, and her book will give readers, especially students, an introduction to some of the most prominent voices and arguments in the field today.” -Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Dant's thoughtful environmental especially useful in reminding us of the difference between sensible conservation and the political wallpaper that has often passed for policy in Washington." - Ruralite

“Dant covers a lot of ground...[in her] reasonable assertion that humans have shaped and altered the landscape of the American West, have been molded in turn by its extremes and limitations, and now need to take a more mindful, sustainable approach to using and inhabiting the region.” - Pasatiempo/The Santa Fe New Mexican

"Professor Dant's book should prove very worthwhile indeed to all those interested in seeing what has made this remarkable part of the world what it is in a fresh, new light." - The Well-Read Naturalist

"Dant offers a thought-provoking, well-written work." - Western American Literature